I know; I know. If you’re a parent or teacher, the words “messy play” make you want to run for the hills! But, stick with me for a minute here.
Messy Play For Toddlers
Kids as young as babies and toddlers can begin with this type of sensory play. For children who may still put things in their mouths, you can choose taste safe play options. Of course, adult supervision is recommended for all of these activities.
Even older kids can benefit from messy play. There are many fun opportunities to get messy for kids (and adults) of all ages.
What are the benefits of messy play?
Messy play allows children the opportunity to explore the world around them through their senses. It gives them the freedom to be fully creative.
It also carries with it the benefits of sensory play. Messy play enhances a child’s vocabulary, introduces them to concepts such as experimentation and measurement, improves their coordination, gives them much-needed sensory input, encourages problem solving, and helps regulate emotions and behaviours.
Messy play gets children used to a variety of textures and this can actually help picky eaters. They become accustomed to different textures which helps their willingness to try new foods.
All those benefits far outweigh the inconvenience of the cleanup. Plus, messy play is fun and fun is an important part of childhood!
Messy Play Ideas
- bubble painting
- sensory bins
- mud kitchen
- splashing in puddles
- digging in the dirt or garden
- foaming sidewalk paint
- anything glitter!
- snow playdough
- pudding painting
- shaving cream painting
- bubble wrap body slam painting
- soap foam
- kinetic sand
- paper maché
- cloud dough
- bubble wrap stomp painting
- squirt gun painting
- shaving cream and coloured ice cubes
- building sand castles
- shaving cream and glitter
- kneading dough for cooking or play
- playing in jello
- cotton ball painting
- freezie painting
- frozen paint
- squirt bottle painting
- condensed milk painting
- painting with trucks
- edible sludge
- feet painting
- edible mud
- shaving cream block towers
- paint filled balloons
- jello colour mixing
- fizzy cloud dough
- cooked pasta
- sensory soup
- sand foam
- frozen waterbeads
- mud slime
- edible play sand
- puffy paint
- sensory walk
- snow painting
- underwater magic sand
- sand volcano
- exploding art
- snap painting
- ghost hands (marshmallow gooeyness)
- swing painting
- Instant Snow
Helpful Tips To Make Cleanup A Breeze
- Put a shower curtain liner (buy from the dollar store) underneath the messy play activity. It can easily thrown in the washer afterwards.
- Pack extra clothes and a plastic bag in case your child gets theirs dirty or wet.
- Have your child wear an apron or art smock.
- Have play clothes available that your child knows they can get dirty and even stained.
- Use washable paints and play materials.
- Lay newsprint down on the table underneath the messy art projects before you begin.
- Use a plastic tablecloth to make play dough or slime cleanup easier.
- Keep messy play outside.
- The bathtub is a great place for messy play.
- Place the sensory bin or sensory activity inside a much larger plastic tub.
- Keep wipes or paper towels and water nearby.
- Stay close by to supervise as the messy play materials can easily migrate to other areas of the house when kids are excited or distracted.
I’ll be honest with you… Messy play used to make me cringe. I remember one spring after we moved to our acreage. The snow melted and part of the yard didn’t have grass yet. It created a giant mud pool…which two of my girls went swimming in. Afterwards, the bath water looked like chocolate. And the clothes they had been wearing were so caked in mud that I was tempted to throw them away.
With my oldest two sons, I was that mom that told them NOT to splash in puddles. There was no glitter in the house and for painting, we used paintbrushes, not hands.
But then I saw how quickly time goes. Childhood is fleeting. When our other kids came along, I wanted them to experience all the mess and dirt that childhood had to offer.
Look at the absolute joy that comes across in these pictures of two of my girls splashing in puddles in our yard! Yes, their clothes got wet and dirty. Yes, they got a bit cold. But their laughter made it all worth it.
These pictures to me convey more than just kids playing after a rain. They are proof that I was able to change. As a mom, I was able to grow and get out of my comfort zone. And because of that, my kids have had more memories and less clean clothes!
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